Ex-Olivetti bosses sentenced over asbestos deaths

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Carlo De Benedetti was one of 15 ex-Olivetti managers convicted over asbestos-related deaths. Photo: Str/AFP
13:19 CEST+02:00
Fifteen ex-managers of the Italian electronics company, Olivetti, have been sentenced following a high-profile manslaughter trial over the asbestos-related deaths of 14 former employees.

Judges in Ivrea on Monday handed out sentences to 15 of the 17 ex-bosses on trial, with the heaviest verdicts being passed to ex-Olivetti President Franco De Benedetti and his brother Carlo.

Both were sentenced to five years and two months for corporate manslaughter, Corriere reported.

Between them, the brothers covered a series of top-level roles at Olivetti between 1979 and 1996 and were ruled by Judge Elena Stoppini to have been responsible for 10 of the 14 deaths being investigated.

In particular, the pair allegedly failed to respond to the risks workers at the Olivetti plant faced from asbestos-rich dust created during production until it was too late.

“I'm shocked and bitter that the judges have accepted these unfounded allegations,” Carlo De Benedetti told reporters after the sentence.

“I've been condemned for crimes I din't commit. Under my management, Olivetti always had the maximum care for the safety and well-being of its employees.”

Others convicted include Italy's former transport and infrastructure minister, Corrado Passera, who was co-managing director of the Olivetti group between 1992 and 1996.

Passera was sentenced to one year and 11 months.

“My satisfaction is limited because this is yet another case where deaths could have been avoided,” said the prosecuting magistrate, Laura Longo.

“The difference between Olivetti and other companies is that it continued to use asbestos until the middle of the 1990s.”

In preparation for the trial, which got underway in January, the prosecution team amassed some 36,000 pages of evidence, spanning 50 years of the iconic brand's history.

The five decades of evidence included oral testimonies from former employees across all areas of the company.

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The victims' families have put forward compensation claims totalling more than €5 million.

The case against Olivetti has been mounting since 2005, when retired employee Lucia Delaurenti, who worked for the company between 1965 and 1980, died of malignant mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

This is not the only recent inquiry into asbestos-related deaths embroiling a giant of Italian industry. In July last year, eleven former managers at the tyre manufacturer, Pirelli, were convicted of manslaughter after 24 workers died due to asbestos exposure. 

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